What's it about
The Toyota Auris is one of those cars that you won't look at twice as discretion again seems to be the key to Toyota's latest design trend.
Yes, it is tough to get excited about the looks of Toyota's RunX replacement, especially since it also looks like a supersized Yaris that was let loose in a McDonalds store.
Whereas the RunX used to share design elements with the Corolla, the Auris is now positioned as a unique model range.
For example, the interior architecture is almost completely different from that of the Corolla.
However, the good news about the Auris is that Toyota dropped a 2-litre turbodiesel in the engine bay - which is also the model we got our hands on.
The Auris D-4D model is available in RS and RX spec levels. Our test unit was the lower-specced RS derivative.
On the inside
The interior layout works as most controls are within easy reach of the driver. The big talking point, of course, is the prominent freestanding console housing the gearlever.
From a practical perspective, the main aim is to raise the gearlever to improve ergonomics making gear changing easier. It also frees up useful stowage space below.
What does look odd is the pistol-grip handbrake, which sits at an awkward angle, standing out like a sore thumb. A very cheap-looking bright-silver plastic release button doesn't help either, and most passengers that entered the car made nasty comments about it.
In addition to the less tasteful handbrake there are some other cheap-looking plastics too. But surprisingly, the Auris didn't have any squeaks and our first impressions were that the car is quite solid and a clear improvement when compared with the RunX.
The 3D dials, which are similar to that of the RAV4, are quite nifty and the standard features list on the RS model is also good.
It is blessed with all the usual luxury features such as air-conditioning, all-round electric windows, six-disc CD changer with six speakers and cruise control.
However, it was quite annoying that the electric window switches aren't illuminated in the dark.
One can't help to be impressed with the comprehensive passive safety package, which includes dual front and side airbags, curtain airbags as well as a driver's knee airbag.
Seats are quite comfortable and the Auris definitely deserves credit for the vast amount of passenger space. With impressive rear legroom there is ample space for four adults in the cabin.
The car also features Toyota's clever Easy Flat seat folding system, which means you get an almost flat load surface when you drop the seats.
Under the skin
The Auris is the first Toyota in the C-segment with turbodiesel power. Its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel is based on the 2.2-litre turbodiesel from the RAV4 and Avensis.
The new engine has an equal bore/stroke ratio and produces 93 kW at 3 600 r/min and 300 Nm of torque from between 2 000 and 2 800 r/min. Toyota claims fuel consumption figures of 5.4-litres per 100km.
The Auris gets a variation of MacPherson strut, known as an L-arm MacPherson strut. This compact and rigid design brings the strut inboard from the wheel hub and allows for a wider track. It also improves noise and vibration suppression.
Furthermore the suspension geometry has been optimised helping straight-line stability together with precise steering response. The rear suspension employs a compact torsion beam layout.
In terms of active safety the Auris gets ABS and EBD with brake assist.
The Auris' ride quality is good since its taut chassis and proven suspension arrangement does a great job of dealing with dodgy road surfaces.
The diesel engine, which is quite punchy, is quiet at speed but husky around town. However, diesel rattle is merely noticeable rather than intrusive.
The claimed 0-100km/h sprint of 10.3 seconds isn't too impressive, but the 300 Nm of pulling power, which is available from a low 2 000 r/min, means a fair amount of zest is on tap whenever you need it.
The throttle response is good too, while the brakes are well up to their task. Furthermore the gearshift action is vast improvement on the RunX as it is light and precise.
On the open road, the Auris diesel is a happy cruiser and although there were no rattles there was a fair amount of road noise.
The ride isn't necessarily exciting, but the Auris is capable and smooth. Handling is much better than the RunX's was too with confident road holding and comfortable ride quality.
However, the electric power steering doesn't give much feedback and has a detached feel to it.
At least the Auris isn't the dullest car in its segment - that credit goes to the Nissan Tiida. In the looks and dynamics department the Honda Civic hatch, although not available in diesel guise, is a far more exciting car.
Its obvious diesel rivals are the VW Golf 1.9 TDI and the Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi. In terms of performance, refinement, quality and ride the Auris is very capable to compete against these two.
But otherwise Toyota has again produced a typical, err, Toyota... But what's wrong with that too?
We also have no reason to believe that the Auris' reliability is less than what we have become accustomed to when it comes to Toyota products.
The car gives the impression of being well-made with a durable fit and finish. It is solid and nicely behaved too while the vehicle's safety credentials stands out too. Euro N-Cap has awarded the Auris five stars for passenger safety, four stars for child safety and it scored three stars for pedestrian safety.
The Auris might not stand out or set new trends in the very competitive medium hatchback segment but it does its job well and has several good points. Typical Toyota the Auris is sensible choice.